Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tutoring program a hit at Granite Bay

The Press-Tribune in Roseville, California profiles a new peer-based writing center at Granite Bay Highschool:

"Lately, Granite Bay High School students have had a potent weapon in their efforts to improve their writing and take home better grades: other students.

The brainchild of English teacher David Tastor, the Granite Bay Writing Center opened last semester with a staff of around 25 juniors and seniors.

The tutors, already identified as advanced writers, enrolled in a class called 'Students Teaching Students.'" (
Tutoring program a hit at Granite Bay)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Busy at 4Cs!

Unlike Clint, I didn't take pictures of any people, but did take pictures of Chicago, when I wasn't busy running around the convention. I went to a really interesting two-part workshop on Wednesday on special topics in Second Language Writing. (My attendance was only partly motivated by Paul Kei Matsuda's presence... really.)

I also managed to get to a few sessions on Thursday - a session on technology integration in the ESL classroom; a session on pre-service English teachers courses and mentorship; and a session on ePortfolios and Composition (the session I got to chair). I also managed to get to a session on Thursday - Directing and Re-directing Online Students' Discussion Posts. I got lucky, inasmuch as the sessions I went to all had something to offer.

Met some really nice people, too (the benefit of having a few of my professors there...)! Not that I didn't think people wouldn't be, but I was concerned that as an undergrad, few would take the time to talk to me, and that turned out just not to be the case; everyone was amazingly friendly.

I had such a good time that on my flight home yesterday I was a bit sad to be coming back to New York.

Building community

Mickey Harris and Roberta Kjesrud enjoy the bus ride to UIC campus.

WCENTER visitors tour the UIC Writing Center

I think this might be the first-ever WCENTER Breakfast portrait.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

CCCC blogging complications

Well blogging at the Cs was a bit complicated by the spendy internet prices, so I just couldn't justify it. However, I've found a free wireless connection this morning here in Chicago, so I thought I would post what I wrote for WCENTER consumption last night:

Hey all,

I know many of you were at CCCC and I could say hi to your personally, but for those of you who didn't have the opportunity, I just wanted to say that we've had a great time here in Chicago and we've had quite a few writing-center-related sessions. I've been busy jawing and having meetings with various folks so I haven't been able to attend a whole lot of sessions, but based upon things that folks have told me there were many many excellent sessions here at CCCC about writing centers. We also had a pre-conference workshop put together by Shanti Bruce and Kevin Dvorak which was universally claimed as very useful and engaging. Kevin and Shanti are proposing the session again for next year's CCCC in New York, so if you are interested in getting involved in that, I suggest you contact them. (Sorry I don't have their email addresses handy, but I assume they are just a Google away.)

OK, if I sound enthusiastic, it is because I, indeed, am. While I have many self-criticisms of our Board Meeting on Thursday night, I have none of our focused SIG which occurred right before it. Vice President Michele Eodice pulled together a great session where we could chat amongst ourselves in our special interest groups in the special interest group of writing centers. I, for example, had the opportunity to meet many folks, such as Harry Mosley and Sharon Masturzo, in the two-year scene whom I hadn't met before, as well as to rely on the expertise of WC professionals like Ellen Mohr and Sherri Winans (current Community College Rep for the IWCA Executive Board). Together we talked about the challenges that a two-year institution presents to writing center professionals. From what I could see, the conversations in other groups were likewise fruitful, although I would really enjoy hearing what others who participated in the groups felt.

Now as for the board meeting itself, I most enjoyed presenting the Scholarship award to Laurie Grobman, the late Candace Spigelman, and Anne Ellen Geller. (Forgive any miss-spellings of names as I am on my wacky web-based email access and cannot check them very easily--feel free to correct me). We will have pictures to post on of the reception of the awards. I honestly felt too rushed by the agenda that I had planned to pay proper respect to the award winners and feel bad about it now. My self-criticism is that I should have slowed it all down and allowed for all of us to congratulate Laurie and Anne and think back on Candace's contributions to our community. Ok--it is one of those things that I learn from in thinking back on it. Thanks to Neal Lerner and Charlene Hirschi for chairing the awards committees and announcing the awards. Anne, Laurie, and Candace(may she rest in peace), really do deserve a hearty round of applause (via email in this case) from our community.

At this time we also honored people who have contributed to IWCA as officers or editors. Most notably I honored past-president Jon Olson whose presidency I attempt to honor by immitating it, as well as the editorship of the IWCA Update of Bill Macauley. Both Jon and Bill received their plaques with surprise and self-effacement, but I was quite honored to give these small tokens of honor (I called them a pound of wood) from a very appreciative organization. I also have plaques for former-Secretary Jill Pennington and former-Vice-President James Inman. Jill served as IWCA secretary (a very tough job indeed). I feel a special connection to Jill as she was, like me, the community college representative and is committed to developing the community college contigent in IWCA.

We had many other important issues to discuss on our agenda at the meeting--, but what was brought to my attention more than any other by the end of the meeting is the idea of getting involved in IWCA. We as an organization (and I do me WE--that's you, dear reader) need to work on inclusion and getting many people involved who are already doing writing center work. I'm going to work to make sure that all IWCA members are aware of our work and the opportunities that are available to all of us (such as research grants and Executive Board at-large positions). I might note, however, that our work is a communal effort. We are all working to develop and enhance writing centers--it is us--US (I capitalize it on purpose). WE (same thing) need to work with each other to develop and understand our community.

On Friday we had the WCENTER breakfast graciously hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago (sorry if I got the name wrong again). At the breakfast we had the opportunity to talk about various issues. The UIC folks graciously showed us their writing center and informed us of their work with not only their own student body, but also their community outreach. I was happy to join Michele Eodice (IWCA VP) and Michael Pemberton (former IWCA President) and the awesome (sorry to use such an 80's term) Bill Macauley, to field questions from the audience. In the audience were many current luminaries in our field most notably Muriel Harris, Roberta Kjesrud, Harry Denny, Nathalie Singh-Cochran, (all please forgive my mis-spellings) who grilled us about what IWCA does for its members. As Michele, and Michael, and Bill indicated IWCA offers a way of connecting and becoming a part of a community AND to share in the development of that community. I also pointed out that IWCA provides members with those networking opportunities, but also a hearty website full of userful information, support for the Writing Center Journal, research grants, scholarship awards, support for our conference and for the Summer Institute, as well as our continuing connection with the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW).

Today I spent my time talking about how we can make the Association better responsive to the needs of our constituents and how we can have better mechanisms (for want of a better word) to maintain our mission. I have a lot of ideas, but what ideas do you have? Where are we at as an organization? What should we be doing?

I look forward to your response (I really do).

Live from Chicago, Illinois, United States of America,

(IWCA President)
More later. The podcast thing really could come together, I think. I didn't really record anything, however, so CCCC stuff is out.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Blogging the Cs

Depending on if there is free Internet anywhere in or near the Palmer House hotel, I may be blogging at CCCC. I've got a fairly packed schedule Wednesday through Friday, but I should be able to write about things. Because of my meeting scheudles, however, I will not be able to attend very many actual sessions. I'll be commenting on the possible sessions in another post.

The PeerCentered podcast crue (as we've dubbed ourselves) will be meeting to discuss podcast possibilities on Wednesday night around 7. I'm sure it will be somewhere in the Palmer House, or at least nearby. Most likey attending are Kevin Dvorak and Shanti Bruce of Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Michelle Solomon of Stony Brook. I haven't heard from a couple of other folks I've invited.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Old school

In a comment below, PeerCentered blogger Michelle notes that people might struggle with the technology of making an audio segment. While I think that would be the case if folks are trying to do it on the computer (although programs like GarageBand for Macs make it really easy), folks who want to participate could produce audio segments using older technology such as tape recorders. I can easily digitize any audio files on tapes or CDs; these segments would then be incorporated into the PeerCentered podcast envelope (if you will). I would then distribute the MP3 file on the same server that hosts the PeerCentered blog for syndication. Folks could then either use a web page interface or their favorite podcast listening software (such as iTunes) to listen to the podcast. Folks don't necessarily have to worry about the technological end of all this, in other words.

I'm going to make a page for submissions etc. I've also got a very rough "pilot" of a podcast that I might make public at some point. Basically it is a call for submissions in podcast form.

It is all about timing

So far I've put out a private call to a few folks about participating in the podcast, but will soon be putting out a public call. I have to consider timing, however, as most of the WC world's attention will thrown to CCCC in two weeks.

Timing is the key on this, I think. Then again a call this late in the academic year might just go un-noticed altogether.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sealing Wax and Podcasts

Ok, so here is the skinny on what I am thinking about for the podcast: basically, like PeerCentered, it would be a community effort where folks from around the writing center world could create audio essays, conduct interviews, or other create other writing-center-related audio projects and I would edit them together into the PeerCentered Podcast. The purpose behind the podcast is to allow our community to share ideas in an audio media that we might not be able to share as effectively through writing alone. (Well that and it is a super cool thing to do. )

Aside from a desperate desire to be super-cool, PeerCentered has always been about experimentation with medium and trying to reach audiences over the internet in different ways. We started out, for example, as an online chat which evolved into a web board, which in turn evolved into this blog. The podcast seems like a good extension where we can share audio projects (I envision having "radio essays" akin to This American Life (This Writing Center Life?) along with interviews that folks might conduct with writing center scholars/theorists/superstars and perhaps (if proper permission is given) recordings of conference sessions or speeches or whatever.)

The podcast is open to anyone in the WC community, but I would like to encourage submissions from peer tutors. I'm excited by the possibilites the podcast represents. Hopefully we'll get some submissions.

If you are interested in submitting to the PeerCentered Podcast, contact me at If I don't respond to you in a reasonable amount of time, your message has probably gone into a spam mail filter. Please comment on this posting if that is the case.

Monday, March 06, 2006

RMPTC part 2.

Well your intrepid blogger failed to even remotely live blog the second day of RMPTC. I did take some pictures, however, which I will post along with my comments here.

The started out with a nice mingling of poster sessions and breakfast. Since it did indeed snow I got to the BYU campus 35 minutes into the poster session. Luckilly I had a chance to talk to some of the folks and snap a few pictures. I then met up with feloow SLiCCkers (SLCC is fondly called "Slick" by locals) and we discussed the sessions we wished to attend. I chose to attend "trapped by Terminology: Empowering Students to Talk More Effectively about Their Writing" put on by folks from the BYU Writing Center. With clever props the session explored the ins and outs of tutor/student writer communication and how one can best rectify the situation.

We next had the pleasure of hearing Steve Sherwood's keynote address. Steve addressed the issue of humor and style in tutoring.

I then attended the University of Utah's presentation on developing a tutoring manual for new tutors. I was inspired by the idea of having new tutors write a manual for the next generation of tutors. I think I will attempt this with the next round of tutors who go through training.

After lunch I went to the session from SLCC's Community Writing Center. I'm glad I went because I learned more about volunteering opportunities.

In all the conference was a success, I think. The folks who work in the SLCC Student Writing Center are still talking about it.

On a completely different front, the conference convinced me that I should pursue making a podcast to go along with this text-only blog. Basically the podcast will cover peer tutoring issuess aimed at a broad writing center audience. More on that later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Rocky Mountain Peer Tutoring Conference 2006, part 1

Brigham Young University is hosting the 2006 Rocky Mountain Peer Tutoring Conference, which serves as my IWCA region's (RMWCA) writing center conference. Generally we have snow for the conference but since the weather in the Rocky Mountains is extraodinarily unpredictable we have windy weather with temperatures soaring to the 60s! Rest assured, however, snow is predicted for tomorrow and what with RMPTC's reputation (the great blizzards of 1996-2003) we'll be seeing the icier side of Provo, Utah tomorrow.

Today's session consisted of our Regional Business Meeting lead by Charlene Hirschi of Utah State University. She showed off the web site that her folks have been working on (sorry I neglected to write down the URL) and presented the RMWCA bylaws for the director's approval. The bylaws (with slight modification to the terms of the officers) was approved without unanimously.

We then moved on to the director presentations from Julie Clark Simon of Southern Utah University, Matthew Haslam from Brigham Young, and Michael Mattison the new director of the Boise State Univesity Writing Center (Michael took over from Rick Leahy this fall--Rick having retired. We'll certainly miss Rick, but Michael is an excellent addition to our small Rocky Mountain group.) Julie discussed issues with Institutional Review Boards and how best to approach them and get research work approved. I was surprised to discover that student surveys fall under an IRB's purview. Matthew talked about discipline specific writing tutoring. Matt coordinates the Psychology Lab at BYU which specializes in working with psychology student writers. The directors discussed how generalist writing centers can function in a acadmic world that is so differentiated by various disciplines. Finaly, Michael gave a thought provoking presentation on director observation in the writing center and how we can prevent it from just becoming a panopticon, and strive for true collaborative/reflective learning in our centers.

We then sojourned to another part of the giant new building they hosted us in and had a tasty dinner of salads provided by the BYU Art Museum. We chatted informally about the peer tutoring sessions tomorrow and met with Steve Sherwood, our keynote speaker.

Penny Bird, Conference Host, is to be commended for her work.

Stay tuned tomorrow for semi-live conference blogging!

Your Written Voice Matters: Embracing Writing Language against the Standards of the Academy

In consultations as a tutor, I notice students struggle with their own written language based on the demands of the academy. Many students e...